By Mollie LaSalle
WOODVILLE – A surprised Fred Sullivan was honored for his years of hard work and dedication to the community on Saturday evening.
Sullivan, owner of Sullivan’s Hardware, and longtime civic leader, was feted at the annual meeting of the Tyler County Heritage Society, which took place inside the Pickett House. Sullivan was a founding member of TCHS and continues to serve in the organization to this day.
Sarah Blacksher was on hand from Congressman Brian Babin’s office to give Sullivan a certificate and a flag that was flown over the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The certificate read, “this is in special recognition on behalf on Congressman Brian Babin to offer congratulations to Fred Sullivan . Thank You for your service to Heritage Village and Tyler County.”
You have devoted your life to making Southeast Texas a better place to live and grow. It is an honor and a privilege to have you as member of our community”.
Woodville Mayor Amy Bythewood was next up to the podium. “It is my honor to represent the city in being here tonight for you. When I look around the room, I do see a lot of people who have dedicated their lives to making our community better. When people think about Woodville, Texas, you come to mind, not just your generosity, but also your hardware store, it is lovely to go someplace to get a nail, a hot glue gun, and some Christmas decorations. This is our values, and you embody them, but it is definitely an honor to be here thanking you for what you’ve done. For most of us, we see a special person, a person who has been there for us in our grief, our happiness, and who has touched so many people, so many organizations, Thank You so much”.
Roschelle Springfield spoke next, on behalf of the Heritage Society, The Allan Shivers Library and Museum, and the Woodville Rotary Club.
“Freddie Sullivan grew up in Woodville, graduated from Kirby High School, and went off to college. He came back to Woodville to begin his legacy. The Rotary Club of Woodville gained an important member in February 1970. Fred has been the backbone of our club for all these years. He has held just about every office and been on almost every committee. When I go to out-of-town Rotary meetings of conferences, the first thing I get asked is, “How is Fred, how is he doing?”. Fred Sullivan is known far and wide throughout the district. He has been a member of the Methodist church all his life. Most people say about Sullivan’s Hardware, ‘If Sullivan’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it’. The legacy of Fred Sullivan continues”.
Woodville City Administrator Mandy Risinger spoke next representing the Tyler County Dogwood Festival. “Fred Sullivan has served the Tyler County Dogwood Festival for most of his life, I cannot begin to stand here and tell you all the different capacities and leadership roles and things he has done. I can tell you his role started as a small child with the play. He was a member of the children’s court (ring bearer to the queen in 1948 ). He is a member of the permanent board, he was a kingsman for many years. But his most important role has been his effort to preserve the traditions and the history of the festival and Tyler County. I personally have benefited from his guidance for almost 20 years and although he wasn’t the first to say it, every time I hear the words It’s Dogwood Time in Tyler County, he is the voice that I hear in my head. So, with that I will say, thank you, and congratulations”.
TCHS president Chris Edwards took the podium to offer his appreciation. “Thank You, Fred Sullivan for all that you’ve done. It is an honor to breathe the same air as you. My introduction to Fred Sullivan began as a young child. My granddad volunteered out here (at the village). It was actually through the historical play ‘Whispers in the Wind’ that I became aware of Fred Sullivan. It has been my honor to call you a friend, and now we are next door neighbors, as our businesses are next door to each other in downtown Woodville.”
In other business of the evening, new directors Joe Blacksher, Mike Cabaniss, Ashley Ensign, Chris Bennett and Pete Zinnate were approved to serve on the TCHS board.
Edwards said “I’m congratulatory and very thankful for all the volunteers and our board, who works hard to accomplish what we have. Hopefully, we are able to maintain the legacy begun by a group of very concerned citizens who wanted to preserve the heritage of this area, through these buildings, and also through the education, demonstrations of artwork, blacksmithing, candle-making, and many other ways to educate the public to the rich heritage out here; for the rich appreciation for what has come before and what’s been prepared for future generations. Over the past few years, we have been rebuilding interest and there’s nowhere to go but up.”
Edwards implored the board members to not be afraid of “rocking the boat” if new and profitable ways of doing things come to mind. The guest speaker for the night’s program was Pauline Singleton, from the Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve near Warren.
Singleton began her remarks by saying “one day in 2006, I ran across an old newspaper article about Geraldine Watson and her little preserve. At the end of the article was a phone number for people to visit. The article was so old, that I didn’t know if the number was even good anymore, but it was, and I talked to her and made plans to visit. I visited for the first time in June 2006, Geraldine greeted me warmly, and we had a nice visit. She showed me around and that’s how my association began with one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met.”
“In the 1960’s, it was not a foregone conclusion that there would ever be a Big Thicket National Preserve. There were those who wanted it, and those who didn’t. If I had to name a dozen people responsible for its ultimate creation, Geraldine Watson would be on that list,” she added.
Watson worried about preserving the place after she was gone. In 2009, she formed a 501C (3) nonprofit that now owns and manages the preserve, and Singleton is the president of the organization. The preserve is open 365 days a year during the daylight hours and is open during the daylight hours. It is located at 527 CR 4777 in Warren.